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Monday, May 22, 2006

Credibility, Shredibility

NYT columnist Tom Friedman falls into the techno-optimist category on the Entropy Production scale of energy-aware people. I notice that the Charlie Rose Show has him on the tube talking to vulture capitalist guest-host John Doerr. Friedman makes very little sense to me and only makes correct predictions because he makes so many of them.

In lieu of saying anything more about Friedman, I remind you of a couple of people who actually did more than spew during their careers. For instance, a cornucopian at PeakOil.com wrote some disparaging comments about Robert L. Hirsch, author of last year's commissioned peak oil report that pretty much got buried by the press.
RGR: Anyone who claims Hirsch is "DA MAN" sure better have checked out his past of crying wolf....such silly proclamations might work among those who haven't been watching this game for awhile and the usual rank amateurs who want the world to end for some silly personal reasons.
I didn't find it too hard to track down Hirsch's accomplishments.
  1. Hirsch-Meeks Fusor (1960's): "Things changed dramatically with the arrival of Robert Hirsch at the lab. He proposed an entirely new way of building a fusor without the ion guns or multipactor electrodes. Instead the system was constructed as two similar spherical electrodes, one inside the other, all inside a larger container filled with a dilute fuel gas. In this system the guns were no longer needed, and corona discharge around the outer electrodes was enough to provide a source of ions. Once ionized the gas would be drawn towards the inner (negativily charged) electrode, which they would pass by and into the central reaction area." [link]
  2. "During the 1970s, he (Hirsch) ran the US fusion energy program, including initiation of the Tokamak fusion test reactor."[link]
  3. The Energy Plateau (1996) where Hirsch started writing about implications of the peak.
  4. 2003 "A recent washington post article notes that our own Robert Hirsch was fired from Rand corporation because he poo-poo'd fusion efforts as being viable for future energy needs based on the current methodolgy of looking for fusion solutions.

    It appears he was doing a special report for Rand under contract by DOE to study future energy trends and what systems looked viable.

    Hirsch thumbed his nose at DOE's fusion efforts (which we know was the right thing to do). This ticked off DOE officials, thereby, starting the usual ripple effect down through the chain of command at Rand. Hirsches part of the report was suppressed or "politically corrected" and all was roses again between Rand and DOE. Hirsch got the axe."
And then you realize what happens when you POOP (Point Out Obvious Problems) on the big guns. "Ya Fired!"

So, given that a scientist who made a name for himself in a very difficult and arcane field, and who has shown courage to confront insane ideas in his own field of study, wouldn't you want to defer just a teeny bit to the man's opinions?

Just like I would tend to listen to the opinions of a 40+ year veteran war correspondent before a Rumsfeld apologist. Read this Joe Galloway vs Larry Di Rita exchange for ideas on how to win a war on credibility.

With a choice between getting your hands dirty (ala Hirsch) and getting in the trenches with the grunts (ala Galloway), I don't think Friedman has done either. And but for that rationale, I tend to ignore Flatland Friedman.


Professor Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Tom Friedman. Be very, very afraid trying to debate or even debunk someone who is such a fount of neologisms.

I mean, how can you argue with a man who makes up 10 words and phrases a month? You can't -- they are HIS WORDS. Try and twist em, I dare you -- you'll only be misquoting him.

Robert Hirsh, in contrast, would probably consider himself lucky to coin 1 or 2 words in his entire career.

11:47 PM  

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